Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thoughts on PBS' Genealogy Roadshow: Nashville episode

So last night on PBS was the premiere episode of Genealogy Roadshow. I believe there's going to be a 4-episode run - last night's episode took place at Belmont Mansion in Nashville. On to the bullet points! :)

  • I guess I should have expected it from the title, but I didn't, that this would be oh so similar to Antique Roadshow. I thought the episode was going to focus on a couple of people from the Nashville area and their connections to local notables from history. But there were literally lines of people there to ask questions regarding their family histories, and the episode featured a bunch of them.
  • The editing made it seem like people came and were given answers that very same day, but those of us who do this frequently know that never happens - I assume people lined up with their questions, PBS took the most interesting or most verifiable ones, and had them come back at another time for their answers. I mean, not for nothing, but I WISH I could get DNA results back in a day!
  • Due to the number of people featured, the genealogists really didn't go into the details of HOW they arrived at their conclusions - at one point, my fiance was wondering how they knew to look for one girl's great-grandfather in Connecticut. I'm sure they followed a bunch of clues that led them there, but due to time constraints they just showed, boom, here in New York, then five years later, boom, there in Connecticut. 
  • I know I go on and on that genealogy is not about connecting to famous or infamous people (although, yes, that can be very cool), but for a show like this, that actually works. As average American viewer #276,591, it doesn't mean anything to me that you are related to Jim Bob Smith of Nowheresville, Tennessee, although I'm sure you are thrilled to discover that info, because you have a personal connection to him. For me, I know and recognize names like Jesse James and Davy Crockett, so you being related to them means something to me. I can connect to that.
  • On a related note, though at first glance this show appears to be about connecting people genealogically to notable people in history, I think it's more about using genealogy to either prove or disprove oral history and tradition that has been passed down through the years, and I thought that was interesting.
  • As we saw, a lot of times, oral history or tradition can be wrong (I kinda felt like I was watching Antique Roadshow at times, where people were hoping to connect to someone famous only to be shot down, like when people show up with what they think is a valuable family heirloom and it turns out their grandfather bought it at Ikea for 20 bucks, hee hee). But as the one genealogist pointed out, family stories aren't always flat out wrong - there's often a kernel of truth in a family's oral history. A cousin of I have just recently connected with on my Lindemann side of the family wrote to me that they had always heard that one of the Lindemann sisters drowned on the Titanic in 1912. Well, she didn't, but she did die in 1904 when the steamboat General Slocum caught fire and sank in New York's East River, resulting in the worst loss of life in the New York area until 9/11. See, kernels of truth.
  • Though we were only treated to snippets of each person, I did get misty-eyed twice. No surprise there, right? The girl who had never known her father, who ended up meeting her cousin and getting all this info and all these photos, definitely struck a chord, and also loved the man who brought the photo of his ancestor as a young boy being held by an older black gentleman, and the two of them smiling and actually seeming happy, and then bringing out the descendant of that man...well, that also brought a tear to my eye. Nothing gets me like when genealogy helps people make those personal connections.
  • Intrigued so far by the show. Not loving it like "Who Do You Think You Are?" or "Finding Your Roots," but I'll take my genealogy fix where I can get it. Without fail, watching a genealogy show gives me the shot in the arm I need to feel excited and motivated to just keep going!

Did you catch Genealogy Roadshow? What did you think of the episode?

1 comment:

  1. I watched last night too and I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I did feel like I was watching antiques roadshow where everyone was hoping to hit the million dollar - "you-have-yourself-a celebrity" appraisal. Is that all people really want? Sheesh. Additionally, The woman at the end who got a cousin and photos of her father seemed overwhelmed. I didn't like the way Josh was pushing for a different kind of reaction from her. I'll watch it again but it's no "Finding Your Roots" - the best part of it was that it is focused on helping everyday people which "Who Do You Think You Are?" doesn't do; they only focus on the genealogies of current day celebrities.